Everybody else is making Spaghetti Bolognese with their weekly beef mince purchase yet again. But you? You’re making plump Mexican Meatballs, smothered in a chipotle tomato sauce and served over rice, with a dollop of guacamole and sour cream.
How smug do you feel? (Answer: VERY!)
I probably shouldn’t admit this, given I run a recipe website and I feel like I’m expected to have a positive attitude to all things food. The truth is I don’t really have the patience for meatball rolling. I’ve previously whined that someone really needs to invent a meatball rolling device. I picture some tube-like thing into which meat is stuffed, then perfectly shaped meatballs come plopping out the other end.
Not the best image, perhaps!! 😂 But imagine how fast it could be to make 100 meatballs using such a contraption!!!
Anyway, in the absence of such a device, the point of sharing this musing is so you know that any meatball recipe you see on this website exists because I deem it totally worthy of the rolling effort! And today, such a recipe is Mexican Meatballs.
Powered by classic Tex-Mex spices, these pork and beef beauties are everything you love about Mexican and everything you love about meatballs all in one, and all bathed in a smoky, chipotle-accented tomato sauce.
Ingredients in Mexican Meatballs
Here’s what goes into these Mexican Meatballs. There’s a few “secret ingredients”!
The “secret ingredients” in these meatballs are:
Corn chips that are used in place of the usual breadcrumbs! They add extra flavour into the meatballs, that distinct corn flavour, as well as salt. Substitute with breadcrumbs;
Beef AND pork mince (ground meat) – For the best flavour and lovely soft meatballs. Feel free to just use all beef. Super tasty, just that they are not quite as soft. And if you use all pork, the meatballs will taste, well, porkier; and
Chipotle powder – This is smoked, dried and ground jalapeño chilli that has a bit of a spicy kick to it as well as being beautifully smoky. Sadly it’s not yet widely available in Australia but you can find it in Harris Farms (Sydney) and anywhere that stocks a good variety of spices. Substitute with more smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper or pure chilli.
Ingredients for sauce for Mexican Meatballs
And here’s what you need for the sauce:
Chipotles in Adobo – Now available in the Mexican food section of large grocery stores in Australia (Coles, Woolworths, Harris Farms), this is the key flavouring element for the sauce. We don’t use loads – there’s enough flavour in the meatballs themselves, so we only add a subtle amount in the sauce.
Chipotles are dried and smoked jalapeno peppers. In tinned formed, they usually come in a tangy and spicy red sauce called adobo, hence the name Chipotles in Adobo. You get smoky flavour and heat from the chipotle along with a good kick of spices, garlic and other flavourings from the adobo.
In this recipe, we are using both the chipotle chilli as well as a bit of the sauce.
How to make Mexican Meatballs
To make life easy and keep your meatballs nice and round, I like to par-bake them in the oven then finish them off in the sauce. Great flavour exchange – tasty juices from the meatballs leeches into the sauce, and the sauce keeps the meatballs nice and juicy!
Blitz corn chips until they become fine crumbs. Obviously skip this if you’re using breadcrumbs instead!
Mix with all the other meatball ingredients. Use your hands for speed and ease, else use a wooden spoon;
Portion the mixture using an ice cream scoop. The perfect meatball scooping device for even portioning and making them semi-round! I use my 3 tablespoon ice cream scoop and filling it about 3/4 full. This makes 20 meatballs;
Roll into meatballs then place onto a rack set over a tray. Why a rack? Keeps the balls round and allows hot air to circulate under the meatballs so they brown nicely underneath too. Without a rack, the underside doesn’t go brown;
Spray generously with oil then bake for just 10 minutes to get some colour on the outside. They will still be raw inside which is what we want because we will finish cooking them in the sauce;
Make sauce while the meatballs are in the oven. We only simmer for 5 minutes to start with;
Simmer meatballs in sauce: Then once the meatballs come out of the oven, transfer them into the sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes, rolling them occasionally, to finish cooking the meatballs and to thicken the sauce; and
Sprinkle with fresh coriander/cilantro to finish them off just before serving!
What to serve with Mexican Meatballs
These meatballs are delicious served plain, straight out off the stove, served over a bowl of rice or with some warmed tortillas for stuffing/slopping (that’s a technical term!😂). However, as with all things Mexican, toppings are a bonus. Here are some options.
Sour cream (or yogurt)
Avocado in any form – diced, sliced, smushed, or if you’re going for gold, Guacamole
Your favourite hot sauce
Note: The Mexican Green Rice is buried in a Mexican Beef Ribs recipe. I will pull it out and add a video one of these days!
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings4 – 5 people
Tap or hover to scale
Toppings & garnishes (pick & choose):
Preheat oven to 220°C/390°F (200°C fan). Place a rack over a tray. Spray rack with oil.
Blitz corn chips: Place corn chips in a Nutribullet or food processor. Blitz until they become fine crumbs. (Else put in a ziplock bag and bash!)
Meatball mixture: Place meatball ingredients and meatball Mexican spices in a bowl and mix well with your hands.
Roll meatballs: Roll into 3 – 3.5cm / 1.2 – 1.4″ balls. Place on rack. Should make around 20 – 24 meatballs.
Bake 10 minutes: Spray meatballs generously with oil. Bake 10 minutes until browned (they will still be raw inside, we finish cooking them in the sauce).
While the meatballs are in the oven, start the sauce.
Sauté garlic and chipotle: Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add chopped Adobo Chile and sauté for 20 seconds.
Simmer 5 minutes: Add tomato, Adobo sauce and sugar. Bring to simmer, then turn heat down to low and cook, stirring every now and then, for 5 minutes.
Cook meatballs in sauce: Remove meatballs from oven and transfer into sauce. Continue to cook the sauce for another 10 minutes, rolling meatballs every now and then, until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked.
Fresh coriander: Sprinkle with chopped coriander/cilantro.
Serving: Serve over rice or stuff into tortillas with toppings of choice!
2. Corn chips – Crushed cornchips instead of the usual breadcrumbs really adds something special to these meatballs! You can definitely taste the hint of corn flavour and the salt adds seasoning.
Sub: panko breadcrumbs (1 cup) or ordinary plain bread crumbs (3/4 cup – finer than panko so you need less for equivalent weight) PLUS 1/4 tsp salt (because corn chips have salt in them).
3. Chipotle powder is ground dried jalapeños and it’s an ingredient used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking. Find it at Harris Farms (Syd), delis, spice stores, bulk-bin health food stores. Everywhere, it seems, other than Australian major grocery stores!
Also used in: Prawn/Shrimp Tacos, Chipotle Lime Roasted Cauliflower (this is so good!), Cowboy Bean Salad, Fish Tacos, Mexican Shredded Beef, Chicken Tacos, Cowboy Rice Salad.
4. Chipotles in adobo – These are chipotles (dried, smoked jalapneos) in a flavoured, tangy red sauce that is quite spicy. Great Mexican shortcut ingredient that adds a ton of flavour! Usually found in cans (sometimes jars). Widely available in the US, and nowadays in Australia too. Check the Mexican section of large grocery stores like Coles & Woolies.
Substitute in place of the chipotles in adobo: 1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder + 1/2 tsp SMOKED paprika powder + 1 tbsp sriracha (YES, really, it’s pretty close to Adobo Sauce!).
Freeze leftover chipotles: Use a small ziplock bag, arranging chillies in one layer so it’s easy to break a bit off to use as needed. Use for Beef Barbacoa, Mexican Shredded Chicken, Mexican Corn.
5. Rice options!
6. Leftovers – will keep in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days in the fridge, or freeze in sauce for up to 3 months.
7. Nutrition per serving, meatballs and sauce only, assuming 5 servings.
Calories: 401cal (20%)Carbohydrates: 22g (7%)Protein: 24g (48%)Fat: 25g (38%)Saturated Fat: 7g (44%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 101mg (34%)Sodium: 808mg (35%)Potassium: 945mg (27%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 9g (10%)Vitamin A: 866IU (17%)Vitamin C: 29mg (35%)Calcium: 125mg (13%)Iron: 5mg (28%)
Life of Dozer
That time I burnt my hand grabbing the handle of a searing hot cast iron skillet. It was stinging so badly I had to keep it submerged in ice cold water, while I continued working with my other hand!
No sympathy from Dozer. All he cared about was the one little treat left on the table!